Creepy Trick To Get An Empty Seat Next To You When Flying Southwest

Southwest Airlines doesn’t assign seats. Instead it’s mostly first-come, first-served. Your fare, elite status, and check-in time determine when you board, and you boarding pass is a ‘license to hunt.’ You can take any open seat on the plane.

I’ll always ask the flight’s load at the gate to know how many open seats there will be. As long as the flight isn’t sold out, I’ll angle for one of the empty seats to be next to me. I won’t sit too close to the front, I might take a little time to settle in (my laptop bag might stay in the middle seat a little extra time as I get organized). But I don’t crumple up tissues and put them on the seat (some people do this!) and I don’t outright claim I’m saving the seat for someone else (I’ve seen this, too!).

In each of these schemes the idea is to make the seat next to you unattractive for one reason or another, either because sitting next to you would be disgusting or because it means an awkward interaction – asking you to move or not to ‘save the seat’ for someone else.

One man combines the two approaches, disgusting and awkward, by acting creepy whenever anyone who might sit next to him comes by. Instead of acting like he doesn’t want them sitting next to him, he goes the opposite direction: he is way too eager to have them sit beside him, so much so that almost no stranger would do so if they have nay other option.

The trick is to make eye contact and pat the middle seat to welcome them to snuggle up. This approach has to come across as creepy. Nearly any man can pull it off. Fewer women could.


How to keep seats open next to you on a flight 😂

♬ original sound – mikewdavis

So board as early as possible, get a seat with no one next to you, and the next time your flight isn’t full just be… creepy? And on Southwest that pays off in greater comfort.

(HT: Matador Network)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Was that a full size stroller someone wheeled past the creep? My gosh, where is a person supposed to put that? And I couldn’t believe the size of some of those backpacks. All that fits!!??

  2. The boarding ludicrousness is the primary reason I won’t fly Southwest unless there are literally no other carrier’s flights that day.

  3. That’s all fine and dandy until someone even creepier gleefully accepts the offer. Then what?

    Haven’t flown SWA in years but my go-to was a fully expanded USA Today combined with ear buds preventing both eye contact and the ability to hear any questions about the availability of the seat. Most people keep walking rather than make physical contact to get someone’s attention.

  4. I straight up sit down on whatever is in the middle seats without asking. Sat on people books, tablets, jackets etc. If people abandon their stuff in a seat in going to sit in, I just plop on top of it.

  5. Unfortunately, as word of this gets out lots of self-entitled guys are going to use this tactic. The only plus I scan see is what @Ryan said where he gets a genuine creep/predator type as his companion.

  6. LOL. I was also successful in what I did. I am a large tall man and social situations make me sweat. I just exaggerate the situation by leaning forward to bulk up even more, sit up straight, and constantly wipe my brow with my hands…. instant extra legroom!

  7. On a recent SW flight, someone created a small printed sign that said DO NOT OCCUPY in red letters and had it sitting on the middle seat.

  8. I always sit in a window seat and take my time settling into my seat while my carry on bag rests in the middle seat. After getting seated I sit there and hope that if someone desires to sit in the middle seat that they are small or average sized. I cringe if an obviously overly large (at times obese) person desires to sit the middle seat knowing that for the duration of the flight I will be sharing my paid for seat space with them. The airlines should have a mock up seat at the check in area where if one of “size” has to sit – if they spill over into the seat area on either side of them, then they should be made to pay for a second, adjoining seat. I know assuredly that some one will jump all over me for saying what I have said about those who are overly large, but you can bet that whomever complains “is” one of those of whom I speak.

  9. Maybe if people start reporting these people as potential sex predators they would be thrown off the plane and banned from the airline. Honestly this is all the airlines fault. Don’t have it be a free for all when people are boarding. Unfortunately the public can’t be trusted to act appropriately.

  10. @Bill – and then you get bankrupted and jailed for fraudulent reporting, harassment, etc. POS.

  11. Guy’s a genius! I’d sooner walk than not have an assigned seat for a flight. No idea why, it’s just repugnant to me to pass all those morons smugly sitting in aisle seats. I really tried to fly on Southwest but just can’t do it.

  12. Hey @Lauren Marsh, have you ever seen those rubber, realistic-looking patches of vomit you can buy at trick/party shops?
    Bet you wouldn’t plop right onro one of those!
    The more ULCC your flight, the more realistic it would seem.
    Not saying I would do it, but it would take up next to no space in ones’s carry-on……

  13. So @David Miller doesn’t want obese people sitting next to him, and in another VFTW article Comments today has expressed his dislike of ‘liberals’ as well.
    I guess the only welcome seat mates will need to be wearing a MAGA cap, although a lot of those are obese and more than a little crazy.

  14. glenn t – do you like when an obese person sits next to you and “shares” your seat space? How about liberals that impose their moronic beliefs on you and get in your face or scream when they don’t get their way? – Do you like that? The welcome seat mates are those who don’t “share” my seat space. – I paid for that space and don’t like them “sharing” it.

  15. LOL at that guy. He should wink at every person as they approach his aisle for good measure. =)

  16. @David Miller~
    If you persist in travelling economy/coach you must accept the consequences.
    If I can’t go Business (orF) I’m not going.

  17. glenn t – Fine. Apparently “accepting the consequences” of having to share my seat space with another makes it all right in your book. Got it. Of course you don’t have to “suffer the consequences” since you have no problem over paying to have a seat that keeps you from dealing with the overly large.

  18. Or….fly a decent airline where you can actually reserve seats and/ or fly biz class. I’ll never willingly accept Southwest’s scrum for seats model

  19. David’s definition of a Decent airline = you mean one that charges an additional fee for every seat or overpay to sit in a business class seat – apparently you have more money than brains. I love Southwest because you don’t have to pay extra for a seat. And apparently I have more respect for my money.than you and others do

  20. Put your Bible and Bible Study material on the tray table. That may deter quite a few. Of course you need to remember that “short term goals have long term consequences”.

  21. I hope to find him someday and take him up on his offer. I will out-annoy him & anyone for that matter with words and frequent bathroom breaks. Game on!

  22. This is a primary reason why I refuse to fly The Flying Bus. It’s been 20 years since I did.

  23. Just carry a Bible, prominently marked as such, and ask any potential neighbor: “Can I talk to you about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”

    In the rare event that someone enthusiastically accepts, ask their religion. Whatever they say, for example “Methodist,” just frown and say: “Methodists are Satan’s servants!”

    Either way, you’re clear. The only people who hate religious people more than non-religious people are religious people of a different religion. Hence the unending wars among those whose religions tell them to love one another.

  24. No SWA for me – it has been your loss for 20 years. Have you ever sat down and figures how much extra you have paid the last 20 years for; (1) Airfare, (2) Bag fees, (3) Change fees? Apparently you hate money. Give me the “bus” any day.

  25. SWA is a love it or hate it airline. Those who love it get al they need, those who hate it fly another carrier. I hate United, but with 20 years of it being the Corporate Airline of my employer, I’m a Million Miler and well on my way to 2 Million. But the perks I get now make it semi-bearable, and I never fly SWA. But I understand why some do, and to each his own.

  26. Costs me nothing. I fly mostly first class on coach tickets due to status. I don’t pay for checked bags, don’t pay for drinks, get fed, get my checked bag first. And I don’t have to moo. And… my employer pays for the tickets, and I keep the miles.

  27. No SWA for me – I see, as long as someone else is paying for you flights you don’t mind wasting their money. Must be nice to have “status” that others paid for.

  28. I earned it by virtue of the miles I flew and the work I did. But I do appreciate you judging me. It’s very insightful.

  29. Now, now, children!

    The fact is that people who pay for their own tickets look at air travel differently than those who don’t. Doesn’t make either POV “right” or “wrong.”

  30. Apologies. I’ve been unable to find an Internet forum where making sense is tolerated.

  31. so, @David Miller, you deserted NYC as you couldn’t make it there (great, safe to visit now since there’s no risk of encountering you), and you eschew any airline other than SWA.
    Just to be certain, will you swear on a boxful of MAGA caps you will not fly any other airline than SWA ?
    Thanks, that would be great!

  32. My husband and I recently traveled on SW from PHX to PIT where hubby was having surgery. We bought 3 seats for “medical reasons.” Not only were we challenged by every late boarding smuck who wanted to sit in our empty seat (close to the front of the plane), the flight crew was not informed by the gate agent that we had 3 paid seats. Shame on SW flight crew for initially not believing us! One attendant rolling her eyes and the other yelling from 5 rows aways while the 3rd seat boarding pass was clearly displayed on the extra seat. Terrible experience even though the head flight attendant did apologize for the mistake.

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